Elizabeth Celebrates 64th Annual Youth in Government Day

City Officials and student participants of Youth in Government Day in City Hall's Council Chambers Credits: City of Elizabeth
Superintendent Olga Hugelmeyer, 2018 Youth of the Year Award Recipient Alejandro Zapata and Mayor J. Christian Bollwage Credits: City of Elizabeth

ELIZABETH, NJ - Elizabeth students were given the opportunity to observe municipal business as part of the 64th Annual Youth in Government Day. The event held on May 22, was chaired by First Ward Councilman Carlos L. Torres. 

“Youth in Government Day is a unique opportunity that offers an introduction to the variety of career choices available in public service, particularly city administration,” said Mayor J. Christian Bollwage. “As the student's shadow Directors, Council Members and other mentors, they are provided with the opportunity to experience how daily tasks are managed as well as how issues are addressed by the municipality. This valuable experience enables them to understand the role and responsibilities of each City official and I hope this day inspires them to become active participants in government.” 

Sponsored by the Elizabeth City Council, this year’s Youth in Government Day included young people from the city’s public and parochial high schools. Upon arrival, students gathered in Council Chambers and were assigned to officials. Following introductions, the young people spent a portion of the morning learning job responsibilities from their advisors. 

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The students took an external tour of the city for a first-hand view of the economic development and new initiatives that are occurring. At noon, they gathered for a luncheon at Dolce Restaurant on South Broad Street in Elizabeth. 

As a part of the day’s events, Mayor Bollwage, presented the annual Mayor’s Youth of the Year Award to Alejandro Zapata, a senior at Admiral William F. Halsey Health & Public Safety Academy. Since its inception 53 years ago, the Youth of the Year Award has recognized students for school leadership and community service. 

Alejandro was chosen to receive this award for demonstrating responsible leadership in school organizations and community service. Currently, he ranks number one in his graduating class with a grade point average of 4.6420. He has been involved in interscholastic athletics and various extracurricular activities, including but not limited to: the JROTC Drill Team, which he is the Team Captain and Commander; is a member of the National Honor Society and Varsity Soccer Team as well as the Varsity Track and Field Team, which he serves as Team Captain. It should also be noted that Alejandro has been able to maintain straight A’s while remaining an active part of the school community. 

A committee of representative members of the community was assigned the task of selecting one student from the list of names placed in nomination by the principals of the public, private and parochial high schools in Elizabeth. This year’s members included: Jennifer Cedeno, Ed.D., Chairperson (non-voting member), Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning; Yvonne Smith, Proprietor/Director of Smith Funeral Home; Donald Johnson, Supervisor of the City of Elizabeth’s Office of Youth Services; and John Gibardi, President/CEO of Entertainment Industries Federal Credit Union. 

The activity-filled Youth in Government Day concluded with an afternoon City Council meeting, where the students served as representatives for their assigned City Officials. Each year the Weekly City Council meeting is changed from its usual 7:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. meeting time in order to accommodate the student officials. At the end of the day, the students were presented with certificates of merit for their professionalism and performance throughout the event. is Elizabeth’s free daily news source. Sign up for our daily eNews and follow us on Facebook at and Twitter @TAPElizabeth. 

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